Frank Isola of the New York Daily News has reported that the New York Knicks will suffer a big loss on their coaching staff as Kenny Atkinson; the highly thought of Knicks assistant will be leaving the Knicks bench to join Larry Drew’s staff with the Atlanta Hawks.
Atkinson was the Knicks player development coach and who Jeremy Lin credited for his rise to prominence last season.
Atkinson was the only coach from the Mike D’Antoni regime who was kept when D’Antoni resigned last March (Herb Williams was kept but he wasn’t a D’Antoni guy). Instead of promoting Atkinson, Mike Woodson elected to hire Jim Todd and Darrell Walker to fill the vacancies left by Phil Weber and Dan D’Antoni.
The decision for Atkinson to leave could have something to do with the Knicks decision not to match Lin’s offer, but it very well could have more to do with owner James Dolan.
Dolan once wanted Atkinson removed from the coaching staff because he believed he was talking to the media, but former Knicks president Donnie Walsh insisted that Atkinson stay. Later on, Dolan would not allow Atkinson out of his contract to the join the Portland Trail Blazers.
Atkinson is seen a head coaching prospect in the mold of two former Knicks assistant coaches; Jeff Van Gundy and Tom Thibodeau. Woodson will now have to find a player development coach with the energy and dedication Atkinson gave the organization.
It will be very interesting to see how the Knicks replace Atkinson, if they choose to. Atkinson was always regarded as the Knicks’ best advocate for young, developing players, but the Knicks don’t really have many young players anymore, so a “player development coach” might not be necessary.
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